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Everything You Need to Know About把(bǎ) Sentences

As one of the most common grammar points, “把” is a pain point for many Chinese learners. The various uses about the grammar of 把 are distributed from the elementary to advanced level, from formal written Chinese to oral expressions. Basically, 把 accompanies you throughout your whole Chinese learning journey. Here, we introduce the key grammar uses of 把.

Table of Contents

1. 把 Sentences (把 as a preposition)
2. The key uses of 把 in a Sentence (1)
3. The key uses of 把 in a Sentence (2)
4. The Negative Form of 把 Sentence
5. Special Notice for 把 Sentences
5.1 The use of the object in 把 Sentences
5.2 The use of the verb in 把 Sentences
5.3 The placement of the auxiliary verb in 把 Sentences
5.4 The placement of time words in 把 Sentences

The crucial thing goes first. Based on the new formation of words in 把 sentences, it does seem like one of the most difficult sentence structures in Chinese grammar. When functioning as a preposition, its construction is very different from the equivalent form in English. The structure of 把 sentences is a quite typical form of expression in Chinese.

The definition of 把 Sentences

Different from the usual SVO (Subject + Verb + Object) sentence structure in Chinese, 把sentences bring the object ahead to the front part of the sentence. 把 forms a prepositional phrase and functions as an adverbial modifier preceding the predicate verb and following the subject. In some aspects, 把 can be translated into English with have, make, and let. Most 把 sentences can be rewritten in Verb + Object order.

These 把 sentences indicate the action of the subject has changed the state of a thing or person denoted by the object after 把. It might be a change of position or ownership, the occurrence of a result, or a new state.

This pattern of 把 sentences emphasizes the object’s change of position. The Place in this pattern is often the destination of the Object.

e.g.

小张把书包放在桌子上。(Xiǎo Zhāng bǎ shūbāo fàng zài zhuōzi shàng.) Xiao Zhang put the bag on the table.

妈妈把孩子们送到学校了。(Māma bǎ háizimen sòng dào xuéxiàole.) Mom sent the kids to school.

我想把这张照片挂在墙上。(Wǒ xiǎng bǎ zhè zhāng zhàopiàn guà zài qiáng shàng.) I want to hang this picture on the wall.

This pattern of 把 sentences emphasizes the object 1’s shift in ownership, from the subject to the object 2.

e.g.

学生们想把这个礼物送给老师。(Xuéshēngmen xiǎng bǎ zhège lǐwù sòng gěi lǎoshī.) The students wanted to give this gift to the teacher.

他已经把汉语书还给我了。(Tā yǐjīng bǎ hànyǔ shū huán gěi wǒ le.) He has already returned the Chinese book to me.

你能把机票钱借给我吗?(Nǐ néng bǎ jīpiào qián jiè gěi wǒ ma?) Can you lend me the money for the plane ticket?

The elementary use:

The complement here in this pattern can be the complement of result, the complement of direction, or the complement of state.

e.g.

早上奶奶把脏衣服洗完了。(Zǎoshang nǎinai bǎ zāng yīfu xǐ wán le.) Grandma finished washing the dirty clothes in the morning.

->完了 is the complement of result.

中午我把这些衣服挂起来了。(Zhōngwǔ wǒ bǎ zhèxiē yīfu guà qǐláile.) I hung up these clothes at noon.

->起来 is the complement of direction.

晚上弟弟把干衣服叠得整整齐齐的。(Wǎnshàng dìdi bǎ gān yīfu dié de zhěngzhěngqíqí de.) In the evening, my brother folded the dry clothes neatly.

->整整齐齐的 is the complement of state.

The intermediate use:

Here the complement also can be an action-measure complement or a time-measure complement.

e.g.

钢琴老师把这首曲子又弹了一遍。(Gāngqín lǎoshī bǎ zhè shǒu qǔzi yòu tánle yíbiàn.) The piano teacher played the piece again.

记者把这篇文章改了好几次。(Jìzhě bǎ zhè piān wénzhāng gǎile hǎojǐcì.) The reporter changed the article several times.

这对夫妻把孩子养了二十年。最近他们才发现孩子不是自己的。(Zhè duì fūqī bǎ háizi yǎngle èrshí nián. Zuìjìn tāmen cái fāxiàn háizi búshì zìjǐ de.) The couple raised their child for twenty years. It was only recently that they discovered that the child was not theirs.

This pattern of 把 sentences emphasizes the action result or influence on the object. The verb reduplication forms (such as VV, V一V and V了V) often indicate the softness of mood or the short time of the action.

e.g.

你把这个桌子擦一擦,太脏了!(Nǐ bǎ zhège zhuōzi cā yī cā, tài zàngle!) You wipe this table, it’s so dirty!

我需要再把我的作业检查检查。(Wǒ xūyào zài bǎ wǒ de zuòyè jiǎnchá jiǎnchá.) I need to get my homework checked again.

妈妈把孩子抱了抱,又放下了。(Māma bǎ háizi bàole bào, yòu fàngxiàle.) The mother hugged the kid and put it down again.

Subject + 把 + Object + (给) + Verb + 了

This pattern of 把 sentences indicates the completion of the action.

e.g.

这个小孩悄悄地把碗给洗了。(Zhège xiǎohái qiāoqiāo de bǎ wǎn gěi xǐle.) The child quietly washed the dishes.

你不认识我了?你把我给忘了呀!(Nǐ bú rènshi wǒle? Nǐ bǎ wǒ gěi wàngle ya!) You don’t know me anymore? You forgot me!

老师又把你批评了?(Lǎoshī yòu bǎ nǐ pīpíng le?) Did the teacher criticize you again?

Subject + 把 + Object + (给) + Verb + 着

This pattern of 把 sentences indicates the coming of a new state.

e.g.

你的东西太多了。我帮你把书拿着。(Nǐ de dōngxi tài duōle. Wǒ bāng nǐ bǎ shū názhe.) You have too many things. I’ll help you hold the book.

坐飞机别忘了把护照给带着。(Zuò fēijī bié wàngle bǎ hùzhào gěi dàizhe.) Don’t forget to bring your passport with you if taking the plane.

你把厚衣服穿着,今天很冷。(Nǐ bǎ hòu yīfú chuānzhe, jīntiān hěn lěng.) Wear thick clothes. It’s cold today.

This pattern of 把 sentences emphasizes the state of the action. If there is an adverbial modifier, it can be put before the verb and after the object.

e.g.

你总是把衣服乱放!衣架在这里。(Nǐ zǒng shì bǎ yīfu luàn fàng! Yījià zài zhèlǐ.) You always leave your clothes lying around! The hanger is here.

我想把书包用洗衣机洗,可以吗?(Wǒ xiǎng bǎ shūbāo yòng xǐyījī xǐ, kěyǐ ma?) I want to wash my schoolbag in the washing machine, is that ok?

我听不懂,你把话明说吧。(Wǒ tīng bù dǒng, nǐ bǎ huà míngshuō ba.) I don’t understand, please explain it clearly.

This pattern of 把 sentences emphasizes the occurrence of the action. There is often another action or state occurring closely after it.

e.g.

他把灯一关就睡着了。(Tā bǎ dēng yì guān jiù shuìzhele.) He fell asleep as soon as he turned off the light.

我把钥匙一拿,准备出门散步。(Wǒ bǎ yàoshi yì ná, zhǔnbèi chūmén sànbù.) As soon as I took the keys, I prepared to go out for a walk.

我把钱一还,觉得轻松多了。(Wǒ bǎ qián yì huán, juédé qīngsōng duōle.) As soon as I returned the money, I felt much more relaxed.

This pattern of 把 sentences indicates the result of the action by the means of object 1.

e.g.

我把零钱给了那个老人。(Wǒ bǎ língqián gěile nàgè lǎorén.) I gave the change to the old man.

这对夫妻想把这些东西换钱。(Zhè duì fūqī xiǎng bǎ zhèxiē dōngxi huàn qián.) The couple wanted to exchange these things for money.

老板把公司的钱买了股票。(Lǎobǎn bǎ gōngsī de qián mǎile gǔpiào.) The boss bought the stock with the company’s money.

The following 把 sentence patterns indicate that the subject causes the occurrence of a new result or state.

The subject of this 把 sentence is an inanimate thing, which causes a change of state of the object.

e.g.

大雨把窗外的衣服淋湿了。(Dàyǔ bǎ chuāngwài de yīfu línshīle.) The heavy rain soaked the clothes outside the window.

这些钱把他的难题解决好了。(Zhèxiē qián bǎ tā de nántí jiějué hǎole.) The money solved his problem.

寒冷的天气把我冻感冒了。(Hánlěng de tiānqì bǎ wǒ dòng gǎnmàole.) The cold weather gave me a cold.

The object of this 把 sentence is the agent of the action. The subject causes a new state or result of the object.

e.g.

学生们把汉语老师气得头疼。(Xuéshēngmen bǎ hànyǔ lǎoshī qì de tóuténg.) The students gave the Chinese teacher a headache.

她男朋友把她笑得流眼泪。(Tā nán péngyǒu bǎ tā xiào de liú yǎnlèi.) Her boyfriend made her laugh to tears.

孩子把爷爷感动得不得了。(Háizi bǎ yéye gǎndòng de bùdéliǎo.) The kid moved his grandpa very much.

Negating the 把 sentence is different from normal Chinese sentence patterns. The negator should be put before “把”. However, “不” is not used in 把 sentences. “没”“没有” and “别” are often used as the negators.

e.g.

把钱借给他,他不诚实。(Nǐ bié bǎ qián jiè gěi tā, tā bù chéngshí.) Don’t lend him money. He’s dishonest.

这个孩子又把衣服洗干净。(Zhège háizi yòu méi bǎ yīfú xǐ gānjìng.) The kid didn’t wash his clothes clean again.

没有把汉语作业交给老师吗?(Nǐ méiyǒu bǎ hànyǔ zuòyè jiāo gěi lǎoshī ma?) Did you not give your Chinese homework to the teacher?

1) The use of the object in 把 sentences

The object in 把 sentences should be definite: it should be specific or known according to the context or to the speakers.

e.g.

Incorrect:我把三个饺子吃了。(Wǒ bǎ sān gè jiǎozi chīle.)
Correct:我把饺子吃了。(Wǒ bǎ jiǎozi chīle.)I ate the dumplings.

Incorrect:他把一个钱包拿走了。(Tā bǎ yīgè qiánbāo ná zǒu le.)
Correct:他把那个钱包拿走了。(Tā bǎ nàgè qiánbāo ná zǒu le.) He took that wallet away.

2) The use of the verb in 把 sentences

There are some verbs that cannot be used as predication verbs in 把 sentences.

These include intransitive verbs, which cannot be followed by any object,such as 旅行、旅游、游泳、跳舞、合作、结婚、睡觉、吃饭 etc.

Some verbs of judgment or state can’t be used as the predicate in 把 sentences,such as 有、是、像、在、and存在.

Some verbs expressing mentality or senses can’t be used as the predicate in 把 sentences,such as 知道、同意、觉得、希望、渴望、期望、喜欢、爱、要求、看见、听见、and 学习.

Some directional verbs can’t be used as the predicate in 把 sentences,such as 上、下、进、出、回、到、过、起, etc.

3) The placement of the auxiliary verb in 把 sentences

Auxiliary verbs should be put ahead of the word “把” in 把 sentences.

e.g.

会:

我们会把作业写完的。(Wǒmen huì bǎ zuòyè xiě wán de.) We will finish the homework.

可以:

他可以把车停在这里。(Tā kěyǐ bǎ chē tíng zài zhèlǐ.) He can park his car here.

想:

爸爸想把垃圾扔了。(Bàba xiǎng bǎ lājī rēngle.) Dad wants to throw out the trash.

4) The placement time words in 把 sentences

Time words should be put ahead of the word “把” or the subject in 把 sentences.

e.g.

我昨天把钱弄丢了。(Wǒ zuótiān bǎ qián nòng diū le.) I lost my money yesterday.

明天你把书带来学校。(Míngtiān nǐ bǎ shū dài lái xuéxiào.) Tomorrow you bring the book to school.

你们早上把早餐吃了再来上班。(Nǐmen zǎoshang bǎ zǎocān chīle zàilái shàngbān.) You all eat breakfast in the morning before you go to work.

Besides functioning as a preposition, 把 can also have other meanings and uses. Another common use of 把 is functioning as a measure word. You can learn more about this use here: All About “把” — The Use As A Measure Word

JING CAO

Jing Cao is the chief-editor and co-founder of DigMandarin. She has a master's degree in Chinese Linguistics and Language Aquisition and has taught thousands of students for the past years. She devotes herself to the education career of making Chinese learning easier throughout the world.

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